6 Curious Facts about the History of the Sagrada Família

Over the years, Barcelona has become synonymous with Gaudí’s Sagrada Família: its magnificent yet unfinished towers, its captivating sculpted exterior, its light-filled interior…

The Sagrada Família has been bringing people from far and wide to Barcelona for decades, yet what is it that fascinates visitors so?

Have you ever wondered why Gaudí built the Sagrada Familia? And when, after over 100 years, it will eventually be finished?

In this article we explain these six curious facts about the history and the construction of the Sagrada Família that are sure to make you even more curious about it.

Gaudí did not lay the Sagrada Família’s first stone

It was in 1881 that the Saint John Devotee Association (Asociación de devots de Sant Josep) bought a plot of land measuring 12,800 m2 on which to build the temple. However, it wasn’t until 19 March, 1882 that the first stone was laid – not by Gaudí – but by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. In fact, Gaudí inherited the project from said architect in 1883 with a much more aspiring outlook than his predecessor.

Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano - Sagrada Família

Gaudí dedicated 43 years of his life to the Sagrada Família

As we have mentioned, Gaudí’s plan for what would be the Sagrada Família was highly ambitious. His original plans were for a temple with 5 naves, 3 facades, 18 towers. This would be, by far, his most ambitious project to date, and also the one he sought the most perfection in. From the year 1914 onwards, Gaudí stopped all other work and focused exclusively on the Sagrada Família.


Gaudí lived only to see the construction of the Nativity Façade

The Sagrada Família boasts three façades, each dedicated to a moment in the life of Christ: his birth, his suffering and resurrection and his eternal glory. It was in 1925 that he managed to finish the bell tower of the Nativity Façade, a mere year before his tragic death.

Gaudí knew that he would never see the Sagrada Família finished, therefore he left dozens of plans, sketches and instructions so it could be finished exactly how he had imagined. However, this information was tragically lost and burnt during the Spanish Civil War.

Nativity façade, 1899. Author: Aleu

The temple represents the life of Jesus and will be the tallest building in Barcelona

With the construction of the Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s wish was to represent the life of Jesus. The soon-to-be 18 towers will be dedicated to his disciples, the four Evangelists and the Virgin Mary. The tallest tower of all, scheduled to be finished in 2022, will be dedicated to Jesus Christ and topped by an impressive cross. 

With this, it will reach a total height of 172.5 metres, becoming the tallest building in the city of Barcelona. What’s more, it will also take the title for the tallest church in the world.

There are no straight lines in its architecture

In the entirety of Gaudí’s magnificent temple there is not one straight line. This masterpiece is an imitation of nature at its purest – from columns that emulate trees to an abundance of diverse flora and fauna. It was Gaudí himself who said: “The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God.”

It will be finished in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudí’s death

A mere 144 years since it was started, the Sagrada Família is scheduled to be finished in the year 2026, marking one hundred years after Gaudí’s death in 1926. However, just because the construction is finished doesn’t mean that the temple itself is finished. There is still many a decorative element to add!

This date will be considered even more special if Gaudí obtains sainthood from the Catholic Church, the proposal for which was initiated in 2000 by an association of his devotees.

So, whether your visiting the Sagrada Família for the first or umpteenth time, we hope these interesting facts will open your eyes to the history behind it. 

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